How to unclog or unblock a toilet with an auger and snake (AVOID Doing This!)

Sometimes a plunger is not enough to unclog a toilet and you need a bigger tool. A snake can be a great way to get clogs that are farther in your system. Let’s take a look at 2 types of snakes and see how you can use them.


A closet auger: A great toilet unclogged tool for when a plunger won’t do

Get gloves and be careful when the auger has been used before. You can get the line loose by unclipping it. Get towels and place these around the toilet. The head of the auger is inserted into the toilet. Toilets have a trap that holds dirty water away. This can make it harder to get the auger deeper so be patient when you start out. Once the auger is in place, you spin the head around. This pushes the cable in the toilet and closer to the clog. 

Some augers can be extended if you open up the handle. Getting it back out means spinning in the other way. You can have a clog stuck in the auger so don’t spin too fast. The auger can be wet so be careful when you get it out. An auger is an investment but it can work for more than a decade so if your toilet clogs from time to time, it can be a great idea to get one. You can also stop flushing the things that clog up the toilet in the first place. This includes wet wipes, cat litter, tampons, dirt, food scraps and so on. Toilets should only have excrement, water, and paper. Nothing else. 

Not everyone feels comfortable using one and there is nothing wrong with this. You can ask someone to do it for you or just call a plumber. A plunger is easier to use. 

What to do when a toilet auger or snake won’t go in

If you have followed the previous steps and the auger won’t go in, you should check the auger to see if it is working properly. It is possible that the clog is nearby and that a plunger is a better option. This is quite dangerous though as it also can indicate that there is a problem with the toilet wax ring.

This ring connects the toilet and the floor. If this breaks, it can cause a nasty leak. If the auger won’t go in, you have to be careful. Removing the toilet can make it easier to get access to the drain. Be careful though as it is quite hard to reinstall it.

You can use a camera to check what is going on or call a plumber. If you are confident that there is no problem with the wax ring, you can use a drain snake as well.

You can also drill a hole in the toilet drain and plug this afterward. This way you don’t have to remove the toilet. It creates damage though.

Make sure that the auger isn’t too big for your toilet drain. The auger might be broken as well.

A drain snake: get deeper into the toilet

A drain snake can go deeper than a closet auger because it has a longer cable. You have to insert it into the toilet. Toilets have a trap to stop dirty water from coming back in. This is why it can take some work to get it in the toilet. Start turning it around to get it deeper.

You can push it deeper from time to time as well. It is possible that you are hitting a bend in your drain. This can stop the snake. You can turn it in the other direction to see if that works. Always work slowly and don’t use excessive force. Once you feel that you got the clog, you can turn in the other direction and get the snake out of your toilet. Once again, don’t rush it. Easy does it. If possible, you want to get the clog out instead of breaking it down. If parts of the clog remain in your drain, they can lead to problems again later on. 

Some snakes are battery-operated. You can also get systems that work with your screwdriver or that use manual operations. Always read the instructions before you use these as you can damage your drains or the snake can get stuck. It can be difficult to get it out as you might have to open a drain. This is why I prefer to use a camera before using a snake. It allows you to see what the problem is and how you can reach it. If roots are the problem, you are not going to remove them with a small drain snake. You need a powerful jet for this. Snaking without knowing what is going on is quite risky for this reason. 

A professional drain snake: when an auger is not sufficient

These snakes have several settings: you can control if the cable goes forward or backward and in what direction it has to spin. Given that these are powerful machines, you have to be careful with them. They can often be hired for a few hours. These snakes can damage your system and should only be used by people that are handy, have read the instructions, and wear the right protective gear (including goggles).

You might have to remove the toilet or drill a hole behind the trap (if it is a standing toilet). This can later be filled with a piece of plastic. It is better to remove the toilet but then you have to reinstall a new wax ring. This is why using a camera to check what is going on is a great idea. It is possible that the clog is behind a cleanout and you didn’t have to remove the toilet at all as you had an easier access point. 

Don’t push it when it gets stuck. Let it rotate and see how it goes. It is often controlled with a footpedal.

Snaking versus hydrojetting:

The two main ways of cleaning a clog that is farther along are snaking and hydrojetting. Snaking can remove smaller clogs but can get stuck or damage your drains. Hydrojetting can remove bigger clogs as well and is less prone to getting stuck as the jet pushes it forwards. The backsplash can flood your room though so you have to be careful. A hydrojet also needs a pump and access to water.  It is not always possible to provide this. Each system has its unique advantages and disadvantages and plumbers often pick one of these systems as having both is quite expensive. 

A lot of plumbers prefer hydrojetting as it is very powerful and can remove roots and difficult clogs. They have a camera to see what is going on and pick the right tool for the job. Sometimes it is necessary to open the drain and fix it that way. This can involve digging up a drain and it can be costly. 

You can get an attachment for your pressure washer as well. This is less powerful than what plumbers have but can do the job as well.

If you have a septic tank, hydrojetting might not be an option as it can disturb the bacteria in your tank.